A project has been launched to save an intricate Braille globe invented in Queensland in the 1950s — and share the story of the “fairy godfather of blind children” behind it.
Richard Frank Tunley’s invention opened up the map of the world to blind and vision-impaired children.
It allows them to “understand the place of our planet, understand the size and shape of the countries and oceans, and use Braille to help their way around it”, State Library of Queensland spokeswoman Margaret Warren told ABC Brisbane’s Terri Begley.
The globe is made of wood and aluminium with Braille letters punched into the aluminium, and includes several accompanying plates providing contextual information and instructions on how to use the globe.
“The different continents are raised a little bit so a person with vision impairment can feel the shape of the continents,” Ms Warren said.
“The countries and continents are named in Braille.
“It was very much still in the Commonwealth, the Empire phase, [so] most of the trails around the globe come from the United Kingdom.
“A child who wanted to understand where Australia was in relationship with Britain would run their fingers over these raised dots read the Braille, and work their way around the globe to find their way through the Panama Canal, over the Pacific Ocean and then down eventually to Australia.”
Modern technology to share globe with new generation
At the time, Tunley’s invention was a significant step forward for vision-impaired children.
In Queensland, education was not compulsory for blind and deaf children until 1924, and Tunley was instrumental in lobbying the Government to make that change.
Tunley dedicated much of his life to improving the lives of deaf and blind children, particularly through education.
In addition to the globe, Tunley created maps, models, toys, and games, but his name remains relatively unknown and there are very few Tunley globes left in the world.
Just one frail globe remains in Brisbane, where it is held in the State Library.
Ms Warren and her colleagues hope modern technology can help them change that, so the globe can once again be used as a learning tool.
With money provided by a Queensland Library Foundation crowd-funding initiative, the State Library will use photogrammetry and 3D printing technologies to render the globe as a 3D plan.
Ms Warren said the plan would be made publicly available for anyone to print in 3D and touch — exactly the same way Tunley intended the original globe to be experienced.
The original Tunley globe will also appear at the State Library later this year in an exhibition looking at inventions and innovations from Queensland.